Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Recently the Mississippi Legislature passed legislation outlawing the sale of medical products containing pseudoephedrine without a prescription. The intent of this legislation is to reduce the rampant methamphetamine epidemic. Although it is encouraging to see Democrats and Republicans work so well together to achieve a common goal, this effort will fail for a variety of reasons.
First, this legislation will not be effective without the cooperation of neighboring states. None of these states has such legislation, and it will be too easy for criminals to cross state lines to get the drug.
Unlike marijuana, the naked nose can't detect pseudoephedrine; thus, state troopers without police dogs will not be able to tell if someone has it in their vehicle when they stop them. Even if a trooper had a dog to sniff it out, there is an enforcement problem. The law is you can't purchase pseudoephedrine in Mississippi without a prescription; however, the Legislature can't legislate for its neighbors. Thus, if Billy Bob goes to El Dorado, Ark., and buys 100 boxes of Sudafed he has committed no crime.
Second, this law will ultimately punish Mississippi businesses. Those most affected will be the small independent drug stores that are within an hour of the aforementioned cities in neighboring states. Many Mississippians suffer from allergies. The governor himself admitted that he daily takes pseudoephedrine to deal with his health issues. While some will try alternative products, others will go to these neighboring states to buy Sudafed and similar products. While there, they are going to shop in those towns. Thus, more money will leave Mississippi.
Third, the working poor and lower middle class loses with this legislation. Many of the working poor and middle class have no insurance. Although the Obama administration has mandatory health insurance coming down the pipeline, it hasn't arrived, yet. Additionally, as Hillary Clinton cautioned in the presidential debates, universal health care won't be free. Therefore, cold and allergy sufferers will have to pay his physician anywhere from $100 on up just so he or she can write a prescription for what would otherwise be over-the-counter medication.
Fourth, this legislation opens the way for organized crime to take over the meth business. Although the meth business is problematic because people can get into it easily, law enforcement can control it better for the same reason. Right now, officers can easily find out who is peddling meth because the product is manufactured locally. The new legislation may reduce the number of teens and small-time pushers who manufacture the product; however, it only drives the cost up for the savvy criminal.
Thus, the professional criminal is in a position to capitalize off of this legislation. He will pick up the customers that the small-time pusher and teen pusher can no longer accommodate.
America has seen this before at the turn of the 20th century with prohibition. The small-time whiskey distillers were pushed out with prohibition; however, organized crime and individuals with deep pockets made millions. Not only did the alcohol business flourish, but crime and health issues associated with alcohol rose, too. Eventually, government repealed prohibition, realizing that regulating a problem is more effective than outlawing it.
Rodney Dixon is a Jacksonian who graduated from Provine High School, Tougaloo College and Mississippi College School of Law. He has a solo law practice specializing in family law.